First Look: Maepole brings a bit of Athens-style healthy dining to Atlanta

Maepole's Boxcar seasonal chef special with sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, green beans & onions, pork and Sriracha-honey sauce. 
Courtesy of Brandon Amato
Maepole's Boxcar seasonal chef special with sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, green beans & onions, pork and Sriracha-honey sauce. Courtesy of Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

Editor’s note: This story marks the return of First Look after having been suspended for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. As before, this weekly column will spotlight new restaurants in metro Atlanta. However, stories will now also provide details regarding COVID-19 safety protocols.

Since he started out as an apprentice at Five & Ten, chef and restaurateur Peter Dale has been a fixture of the Athens culinary scene. He has opened popular restaurants, including the National, Seabear Oyster Bar, and Maepole, as well as other ventures such as Condor Chocolates.

Recently, Dale set his sights on Atlanta, debuting an updated version of Maepole in Summerhill. The area has quickly become a dining destination, with Wood’s Chapel, Little Bear, Hot Dog Pete’s, Junior’s Pizza, Halfway Crooks, Little Tart Bakeshop and Big Softie among the storefront spaces lining Georgia Avenue.

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Maepole chef Peter Dale brought his Athens healthy-food concept to Atlanta. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)
Maepole chef Peter Dale brought his Athens healthy-food concept to Atlanta. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)

Credit: Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

During a recent visit, Dale took me on a tour of the contemporary, fast casual-style buildout — which features a neat brick facade, a sleek open kitchen, with colorful signage, and a stainless steel counter, where you can watch as your order is being made. Right now, the only options are takeout or dining on the front patio. But look for indoor dining soon.

“This is new construction,” Dale noted. “All my other businesses are in old buildings, and that’s awesome. But I have seen that it’s really nice to have a clean slate to be able to do it just the way you want.”

Explaining the original Athens concept, Dale said he dreamed up the kind of restaurant he’d want to go to if he were having a busy day.

“Honestly, it came from really selfish reasons,” he said. “I wanted something that was healthy and fresh and quick. I felt like a lot of folks were doing vegetables. The National is white tablecloth, and the veg plate is over $20. I wanted something that was everyday. I needed that in my life.”

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Interior of Maepole's new Summerhill location. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)
Interior of Maepole's new Summerhill location. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)

Credit: Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

The build-your-own menu allows you to customize a plate with one base (such as brown rice, super greens or sweet potatoes), two sides, one protein and one sauce. Or you can opt for a vegetable version with one base, three sides and one sauce. And for those who can’t decide, the seasonal chef selections, which change five times a year, have proved popular.

I really liked the hefty Boxcar, which is always on the menu, and has been a staple in Athens since Maepole first opened. It eats like a hearty Southern meat-and-three, and is loaded with sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans and onions, pulled pork, and Sriracha-honey sauce.

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Maepole's Spring Forward seasonal chef special with super greens, broccoli, chopped salad, chicken, avocado and buttermilk paired with Hibiscus Limeade. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)
Maepole's Spring Forward seasonal chef special with super greens, broccoli, chopped salad, chicken, avocado and buttermilk paired with Hibiscus Limeade. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)

Credit: Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

For something lighter and brighter, a current seasonal offering, Spring Forward, mixes super greens, broccoli, chopped salad, chicken, a half avocado, and buttermilk dressing.

“We find in Athens, most people want to build their own,” Dale said. “When we had the soft opening here, we had a lot of people do the chefs selections. But today it’s about half and half. I think as people get more comfortable with the concept, they’ll probably start doing more build your own.

“We want a healthy restaurant, but also a place that anybody who walks in is going to find something they like. In Athens, we’re adjacent to an industrial area, so we wanted a guy in dirty coveralls to be able to come in and find something he wants to eat. As well, someone who is vegan will find a lot of things to like here, too.”

Maepole's Trailblazer seasonal chef special with quinoa, roasted vegetables, braised kale, fritters, spicy avocado and crunchies. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)
Maepole's Trailblazer seasonal chef special with quinoa, roasted vegetables, braised kale, fritters, spicy avocado and crunchies. (Courtesy of Brandon Amato)

Credit: Brandon Amato

Credit: Brandon Amato

As for drinks, look for Boylan’s fountain sodas, house-made Hibiscus Limeade and Watermelon Greaterade, sweet or unsweet tea, Ginger Yerba Mate brewed in house, Montane sparkling water, and Figment Kombucha. Desserts include Condor milk and dark chocolates, and Maepole Chunk cookies.

Dale noted that all food and beverages are packaged in compostable or recyclable containers, except for some lids and rubber bands used for takeout orders.

“Being a concept that’s going to produce a lot of waste, we wanted to be mindful of what was happening in that area, too,” he said.

DINING OUT

11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

Plates, $6.99-$12.99; beverages, $2-$6; desserts, $1.95-$3.50.

Currently takeout and patio dining only; masks and social distancing required.

72 Georgia Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-907-4355, maepole.com.

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